Ok, first of all, I’m only posting this today because the media is starting to do their “last minute” tax filers stories and I want the readers here to be able to come get the real, actually useable, last-second tax filing tricks. But, let me just say, that if you consider April 3rd to be doing your taxes at the last minute, then, you, sir, are a wimp. (I file electronically on the 14th. Hey, you never know when you might think of something that could save you another $500!)
How To File Taxes Quickest
Mail them, e-File, whatever. Filing is not the part you have to worry about. Getting the forms completed right is what takes time. So, forget all about filing, focus on the Forms.
- Get The Electronic Forms – If you aren’t using software, then get the fill-in PDF files from the IRS. You can type your answers right into the Form 1040 fields and save on typing, hand-writing, scanning, and printing. Best of all, when you are done, just save the file to your hard drive. (Make a backup CD and store it with your hard-copies of 2008 tax documents.)
- Big Income First – The 1040 starts with Income, so jump in. Start by just sticking in the big things, salaries (W2 Forms), business payments (1099 Forms), and so on. Interest, dividends, and the like take a long time and can throw off your momentum so feel free to set them aside and move on instead of bogging down on entering all 18 of your 1099-INTs. Just make sure to keep the items not input in a separate folder. Sorting through what you have and have not already done is the slowest of all.
- Big Deductions – Sure you want to deduct that $5 you gave the kid up the street for his school fundraiser, but if you are in a hurry throw it in the pile with all your 1099-INTs. Input your mortgage interest, student loan interest, child tax credits, property taxes, and so on.
- Use Tax Software – Buy it, or don’t. Use the “free” online versions to jam your numbers in. You only have to pay when you file or print. Don’t file or print. Get the math done for you and then fill in your PDF fillable forms. By the way, if you do want to print, Press ALT+Print Screen. That takes a screenshot or capture of the active Window (if you get the wrong window, just click on the title bar of the one you want and click ALT+Print Screen again.) Paste that picture of the screen into Word or your favorite graphics program and voila, print out. (You cannot file screenshots.)
The point is to get an idea of how bad it’s going to be. If this first pass with just the big stuff shows you getting a huge refund then you can worry a little bit less about having to read through every possible tip and trick you can find to try and save yourself from a huge tax bill. If, on the other hand, you are coming up with a monster tax payment you have to make, then you know that you have to focus and start looking for every piece of paper you can find. When you time = real dollars, you’ll find the time – trust me.